Meet the Team


Principal – Jennifer Gill

Prior to taking on the role of Principal, Jennifer was Head of Education at Acorn Park, so she knows the children and the team here really well. Having worked originally within the mainstream education system, Jennifer developed a real passion to help children with special needs and quickly transitioned to work in this sector. She has worked across a broad age and needs spectrum and for the last ten years has also supported in the residential sector.

“I started at Acorn Park as Team Manager in education and am now the Principal here. I originally started in the mainstream sector but quickly realised that I wanted to work in special educational needs as I had an affinity and the resilience that was required for the job.  My break through moment came in my first year of teaching when a five year old boy with autism kissed a piece of orange satsuma after weeks of support from myself. The reason it was so monumental was that he would only ever eat green food prior to that moment! The elation, joy and motivation that came with that break through has stayed with me ever since.

Whilst I continue to support students and their families in person I find that my drive and ambition now is to inspire the next generation of staff at Acorn Park to have passion for their jobs, be the best and deliver an outstanding service to the young people they support and care for. The children and their families should be aspirational for their futures and our service should facilitate all that they need to achieve their outcomes successfully and with dignity. I want to provide an outstanding service that meets the needs of all who come here, children and staff alike.”



Head of Education – Arabella Hardy

Arabella has worked with young people across a broad spectrum to support them in finding the best possible outcomes and employability status that they can achieve. She is experienced within the special educational needs sector and takes a holistic approach to education, whereby children aren’t just encouraged to achieve their academic potential. They also learn vital skills that will help them engage in learning and prepare them for life.

“The immediate thing that attracted me to the school was the location and the grounds enabling the students to have the space and freedom that they need.

Acorn Park is a wonderful school where all students are accepted, respected, supported and encouraged to be the best that they possibly can be and to develop and celebrate their individual future aspirations and lifelong goals.

From walking through the gates I immediately realised that I wanted to be part of the Acorn Park School community. The trans-disciplinary approach to education, care and therapy all working seamlessly together is fundamental when working with children with so many different complex needs.

I enjoy being part of a committed senior leadership team with all staff from teachers, high level teaching assistants, learning support assistants, duty managers, seniors, support staff and the excellent therapy team, domestic and facilities, all working together for the common goal of all the students.

I think the children best sum up why I come to school each morning, in our last Ofsted inspection the students said the following;

“We are proud of our school and we like coming to school, as school understands our Autism and the range of challenges we experience and how to best support them in our learning.”


Registered Manager – Val Petch

Val Petch is our Residential Manager and leads our dedicated team who look after the children who stay with us at Acorn Park. Val brings a wealth of experience from her extensive career working with children and young people.

For the past few years Val has been responsible for a number of small residential homes in the Suffolk area. She doesn’t shy away from challenging situations and has helped young people with a whole range of challenges, including those with emotional and behavioural difficulties and those at risk of child sexual exploitation.

Regardless of their background or circumstances, Val has high expectations for all the children she cares for and is committed to helping each and every child to achieve his or her potential. This unfailing dedication is something that Val seeks to nurture within the teams she works too. Her aim is to deliver the highest possible standards of care with consistency, patience and fun.

The highly individual and personalised approach to education we take at Acorn Park is something that Val is keen to build on. She has seen the powerful and positive change that can be achieved by getting to know children and building bespoke interventions around their own interest and gifts.